Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Marine Hotel (Brighton) 04/2013

Gastro pubs are a feature of the Melbourne dining scene. They vary enormously in quality of the food they serve and many hardly fit the designation. Some are under the aegis of leading chefs whilst others, no less popular are distinguished by sound cooking of basic dishes at reasonable prices. The Marine Hotel, on New Street is a place in the latter category.  Their lunches are exceptional value. A seniors lunch - two courses for $14.9 or a $16.9 lunch of a main and a glass of wine are hard to beat. Wine by the glass runs from $6.5 to about $8 and is good value too. Every night they have a cheap special advertised on a board at the entrance.

The dining area is considerable
with a large bar to one side and an open kitchen area where one can watch the chefs at work.

We tried the seniors lunch and found it very very good. Pumpkin, carrot and ginger soup was very good

BUT it comes without bread and a single small slice of toasted bread added $2 to the bill!  Here called Misc!

 The outstanding main is fish and chips. Two beer battered flat head fillets, a good serve of very good hand cut chips, a wedge of lemon,a nice  tartare sauce and a small salad, or seasonal vegetables is worth returning for again and again.

Chicken schnitzel was a thick breast of chicken which had been crumbed and cooked and then cut in half,

very obviously.
I don't know if you get the lot if you order it of the regular menu but it would have been easy for them to cut the breast before crumbing and cooking to look like you were not just getting a half! Never the less there is plenty to eat.
Chocolate cake with berries and cream was dessert of the day. Rich and full of calories but yummy if you are a chocoholic. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Unpretentious but solid no nonsense cooking in a clean and pleasing environment
 it is no surprise that they are always busy.
 Wait staff are exceptionally pleasant and welcoming although run off their feet at lunch time because there is no bar man so they have to organize and serve drinks as well as food.
Score:13 /20

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Windows on the Bay (Mordialloc) 04/2013

There are not too many good places to eat at between St.Kilda and Frankston but you can get a very decent meal at this bay side restaurant. During the day there are pleasant views across the beach. There is not much to see at night but the venue is very pleasant. Seating is comfortable, tables are a good size, white linen cloths and napkins all make a good impression. 
The menu provides a good mix of sea food meat and poultry. There are vegetarian and gluten free options. Prices are about average for this sort of restaurant - entrees $14 to $20, mains $30 to $40, sides $8 and desserts $14 to $18, Cheese $24.    
I started with a trilogy. Pork belly on crystallised ginger was a nice variation on apple sauce,  crispy skin and very good as was the coconut prawn and tomato chili. The Hervey bay scallop gratin was a bit dry and the scallop very thin.
Salt and pepper squid, shredded ice berg and whitlof salad lemon salt and Japanese  chili mayonnaise was also a very tasty entree. 

We were surprised to get a very effective palate cleanser before the main course. 

Fish and chips is always popular with us. Here they used Monk fish which is not as appealing as flathead as the flesh is a little mushy and does not hold it's structure well. We got three very good size fillets deep fried in a crisp batter accompanied by a tower of excellent chips a bowl of salad, a wedge of lemon and tartare sauce A substantial meal.

A side dish of green beans tossed in olive oil, roasted cumin seeds and lardons was very much to my taste with the beans fresh and crisp.
I did not taste the duck but was assured that it was a pleasing dish and certainly a substantial size.

For dessert we got to try a variety including Violet brulee a fig parfait, a vanilla orange mousseline and  apple and rhubarb crumble. This was a super end to the meal.

A bottle of Villa Wolf Pinot Gris (2011) was a little expensive at 150% above what you can get it for at Dan Murphy's. However cocktails start at $10!
A pleasing place, a pleasing meal. Not to noisy on this occasion and worth a visit.
Score:13.5 /20

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Chatter 49 Murray Cod

* Click on pics to enlarge them.
Murray Cod, a fish unique to Australia, threatened with extinction, and protected from commercial fishing is little seen in restaurants, markets or fish retailers. Indeed if you catch one you are supposed to throw it back into the river! This is about to change.

Marianvale Blue is engaged in a massive aquaculture project to farm these wonderful fish. To draw attention to them they ran a promotion at the RACV club attended by some of Melbourne's leading chefs. 
Executive Chef Mark Normoyle asked his team to produce a menu to demonstrate the character of the cod,  using every part of the fish, from nose to tail and a variety of ways that it could be served. Here, James, Chef de Cuisine spent some time with Tony Twitchett, Executive Chef at Taxi.
Starting with an amuse of wings, cheek and salt, coarsely crumbed and deep fried it highlighted the delicacy of the fish in contrast to the coarse crumbs.

This was followed by a ceviche and espuma, macerated apple, yuzu and Vietnamese mint accompanied by a particularly appropriate 2004 Tamar Reisling. Wines accompanied every course but the meal was all about the fish. The espuma made from the the boiled bones of the cod and a little crunchy whitebait made for very pleasing dish.

Olive oil poached with vanilla, fennel puree, celery salsa and bone aioli was cooked cooked sous  vide for 35 minutes at 43 degrees. This demonstrated the remarkable delicacy of the cod and displayed textural qualities not experienced when fish is poached, baked or fried.

A lovely carrot and basil sorbet accompanied the next dish which was was orange and muscovado cured cod with a green tea emulsion.

Each dish was, for me, better than the  previous one. The next, smoked pate with toasted brioche, creamed leek and parsley sauce was a clever concept that could be applied to any fish. It did not display the fine features of the cod.

The last course showed the cod at it’s best. Roasted cutlet with white bean brandade, pancetta, truffled pear salad perfectly displayed the qualities of the fish. Pure white, not the slightest hint of muddiness fine flesh that flaked but held it’s structure, delicate in flavour this is a superb fish.

Now that it is being sustainably farmed it should be prominent on restaurant menus and in domestic kitchens.

Chatter 48 Paris Cafes Brasseries and Restaurants Dec to Feb 2013

There are lots of different aspects of Paris. Although there are centres of special interest, by and large, where ever one goes there are a huge variety of shops in the majority of the cities streets. It's like an endless strip shopping centre. Often fashionable shoe shops and designer label clothes retailers are next to small shops selling wine or books or telephones or whatever. Bistros, brasseries and patisseries are rarely more than a stones throw apart.

Kosher is not hard to find.
Coffee is every where, Espresso is 2 Eu but a cappuccino is from 4.5 to 7 Eu!

Some cafes are famous such as three in particular around the Place St. Germaine where Hemingway and French intellectuals such as Sartre and de Beauvour met to thrash out there ideas. These are Le Deux Magot, Café Lipp and Café de Fiore, famous for its red seats and art deco furnishings. For the modern patron I would think their current popularity depends on their history. Whilst there coffee and cakes are nice enough their menus are simple and very ordinary. They are crowded, tables are small and uncomfortable and  prices are high,  though not brutally. This is free enterprise and the market will bare it. Café Lipp is lit up with large neon signs out side and has its name emblazoned every where,

 on the wall

  and on the doormat and the entry hearth and also on its crockery and even the wrappers on the chocolates they offer with coffee.
 Their culinary reputation rests on sauerkraut and beer. They offer a limited lunch menu, coffee and cakes during the day with a range of wines and Alsatian beers. They extend their small range of cakes with two from the renowned patisserie Angeline  It is a lot easier to get these here than at Angeline where the queues can be 100 yards long. On the first occasion we went to Lipp we were shown the door as they were setting up for dinner and would not serve coffee without food. Subsequently we returned and tried two of Angelina’s cakes The Montblanc was magnificent, very rich and sweet the chocolate marron, which had been piped out like strands of angel hair pasta, rested on a firm sweet cream which all sat on a meringue base, presented beautifully in a small cup. We’ve not had better ever but you need to be prepared, it is immensely rich and sweet
The Millefleur however was not exceptional and we have had better from a local patisserie where we are staying.

Their décor is peculiar with large mirrors and panels of attractive floral tiles interspersed with ancient signs with instructions for patrons. They have metal art deco lamps and the ceiling has some sepia tone scenes. Above the stairs there is a colourful painting of parrots. Circular stair case winds down to a very basic toilet.
Café de Fiore, whilst renowned for it’s art deco furnishings, is simpler and less jarring than Lipp. Their prices are virtually the same. I liked the lemon tart although for some it would have had too much lemon. A slice of chocolate tart could not be faulted.
Les Deux Magot was exceptionally crowded with small round  tables tightly packed so it was almost impossible to move. Around us patrons were reading travel guides, works by Jean Cocteau or simply sitting to see and be seen. I’m sure the genuine French intellectuals and literati have long gone somewhere else.  Food is unexceptional.

Others are fashionable, Les Papilles falls into that group.

The chef works in a tiny open kitchen with his dog and cat wandering around the restaurants taking guests offering.

Where we stayed, in a working class area of the 11th Arrondisement, there are fewer fashion shops and more down market restaurants, Bistrot, Brasseries, and Crepperies and delicatessens of greater variety, French, Italian, Chinese or mixed Asian dominate. Of the half dozen we have tried the food has varied from indifferent, for example Shanghai Delices and Lili to reasonable like Rosmarie and Rouge Lime

 to excellent at Septime. Many offer set price lunches for about 10 to 13 Euro which equals about A$14 to A$17.50 which, by law, are advertised on a board on the footpath. Serves are generally substantial.

 The evening menus sound most appealing but the cooking is often awful. So much so that, despite appearances, often the best part of the meal is the bread and sometimes the wine.

 Almost raw eggs, very overcooked fish, tough meat, over strong sauces, everything is available at your local Brasserie.
 There are also exceptional places. Among the most famous is Fauchon

 Renowned for its patisseries and chocolate they have branched out into luxury foods and have a caviar bar and a Champagne cellar. Coffee, quiches and some delicacies, for example huge Normandy snails can be eaten at some small crowded tables or taken away.
Whatever you want you can find it and, for Australians it's mostly very reasonably priced.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Saturne (Paris) 02/2

Mardi 05 Fevrier
Petillant naturel 8 Eu champagne 14 Eu eau 50cl 4 Eu 1 litre Eu 6

Poireaux, persil, fourme d’ambert
Huitre,poire, cresson
Anguile fume, betterrave, raifort
Turbot sauvage, crosnes, olive noir
Pigeon au sarment de vigne, grand roux au sang
Carotte, Clementine
Choclat, foin
 60 Eu    (Seven matched wines doubled the price)
 Fromages  Comte extra vieux 31 mois de poligny 16 Eu
 Bieres loirette, brasserie de la pigeonelle 75 cl 12 Eu  oude gueuse 3 fonteinen 75 cl 24 Eu
 Cafes l’arbe a café iapar rouge  5 Eu  Thes maison de tres thes 9 Eu  Infusions 7 Eu
 One Euro was about A$1.3

That was what we were faced with when we arrived for our dinner at 7.30. The restaurant was almost completely empty, the tables almost bare with a menu on each one. The place has a very clean bright modern look, almost antiseptic, with a long wall of wine bottles, almost all standing upright.
Our young English speaking waitress was on her first day and needed to consult someone for most questions about the food but she did a fair job of translating the menu.  
Regardless of how it is presented at the table 70% of Paris restaurants source their bread from the one bakery. It is very crusty on the outside looking almost burnt but never tastes burnt. Under this thick crust the soft part of the loaf is very light with fairly large holes like a ciabata.

The menu was unintelligible but the food was very good displaying attractive presentation, colourful modern technique, and balance in flavour. It was too long ago for us to comment on individual dishes but we regarded this as a remarkably good meal. There was a large selection of wines from which to choose